I just finished rehearsing two pieces with pianist, Jay Rozendaal, for the upcoming recital “Queer Voices” for Seattle Art Song Society. While neither piece is particularly difficult regarding rhythmic notation or pitches, the subject matter is incredibly challenging for me. Singing about the experiences of gay men is, believe it or not, a new experience for me. As someone who identifies as queer, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to sing about LGBTQIA+ issues. The irony is not lost on me that in a way this is almost like another coming out experience.
There is currently little representation of queer people portraying queer roles in opera and art song. As a baritone, I usually find myself stepping into the role of a hetero man chock-full of toxic masculinity, or the comic relief. Sometimes, the same character might embody both of the aforementioned character traits. Yay? So, when Brian approached me about this recital, I jumped at the honor. Well, initially I thought, “Am I worthy to sing this incredible music, about such important subjects?” After all, I want to do justice for both the music community and the LGBTQIA+ community.
For this recital, two of the pieces I am singing are “Walt Whitman in 1989” by Chris DeBlasio, and “Matthew Shepard” by David Del Tredici. DeBlasio’s piece is from The AIDS Quilt Songbook, a collection of songs about the stigma and response to HIV/AIDS and is a direct response to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Poet Perry Brass wrote the text for DeBlasio’s music. Walt Whitman’s name is a reference to his penchant for writing eloquent, if not equally depressing poetry about war. Brass even said that this text is “for a generation taken by our war,” referring to the crisis in the 80s.
Del Tredici’s piece is the hardest song (from a character point of view) that I’ve ever attempted. I was in seventh grade when Matthew Shepard was murdered. Between his murder and the self-hate I had for being a (closeted) queer (not to mention the tragedy that would follow at Columbine the following spring that shoved an entire generation into paranoia), I was certain that this would happen to me, that I would be killed because I was queer. In fact, I had resigned myself to Shepard’s fate, and in a way, didn’t come out of this mind space until college. This doesn’t make me special or unique, as I am sure every young queer person experienced something similar.
In a way, this program for me is an exercise in vulnerability. In allowing myself to be vulnerable, both in my art and my queerness, I hope I am able to continue to grow as a musician and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. And through that growth, I can join the other fabulous musicians on this program to help breathe life into these stories.
Seattle-based lyric baritone Darrell J. Jordan has been praised for his “shining, beautiful voice” (Broadway World), his comedic stage presence has been hailed as a "classic farce" (Seattle Weekly), and he's been called “the star of the show” (Columbia Heart Beat). He is currently pursuing his D.M.A. in Voice Performance at the University of Washington under the tutelage of Dr. Kari Ragan. In demand as a recitalist and concert soloist, his recent solo engagements have been with Amherst Early Music Festival, the Odyssey Chamber Music Series, Rolla Choral Arts Society, Choral Arts Alliance of Missouri, the Missouri Symphony, the Southside Philharmonic Orchestra, the Toledo Symphony, and the Seattle Art Song Society. Opera credits include St. Louis Opera Collective, Haymarket Opera Company, Gateway Opera, the Institute for 17th Century Music, the Show-Me Opera, Lawrence Opera Theatre, Puget Sound Concert Opera, Operamuse, PNW Opera, and the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Seattle. Additionally, Mr. Jordan is on the Teaching Artist roster for Seattle Opera. He can be heard as the baritone soloist on the album St. Lawrence Psalter. He is a member and co-founder of the nationally recognized professional vocal chamber ensemble, Vox Nova.